WNG+EBG at LongshanTemple
W. Norton Grubb and Erica (Rikki) Grubb in Taipei with one of his favorite statues. Photo: courtesy Rikki Grubb

Update 3/30/15: The memorial service for W. Norton Grubb has been set for 2 p.m. Sunday, April 12 at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave.

W. Norton Grubb, the David Pierpont Gardner Professor in Higher Education, Emeritus at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education, died Jan. 15, 2015 in Taipei. He was on vacation with his wife of 46 years, Rikki Grubb, when he died peacefully in his sleep. He had celebrated his 67th birthday while on the trip.

Grubb was a prolific scholar who taught at UC Berkeley for 25 years. He mentored PhD candidates who now hold prestigious university positions in China, Japan, France, Korea, Canada, and many states in the United States. For the last 15 years, he also served as Faculty Coordinator of the Principal Leadership Institute (PLI), a professional program he helped develop to foster strong leadership in urban schools.

While Grubb’s training was in economics (Harvard BA, 1969 and PhD, 1975), his 14 books and scores of articles focused on a wide range of policy issues. Grubb’s scholarship explored problems with school funding, approaches to teaching, social policy toward children and youth, and the pathways for students to advance to the world of work.

Before coming to Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, Grubb had been a tenured professor at the LBJ School of Public Policy at the University of Texas and a research economist at the Childhood and Government Project at UC Berkeley. All of his work brought a razor-sharp focus to questions of equity, and reflected his findings that institutional practices cause inequality in America’s schools, colleges, and labor markets. Grubb believed that no serious examination of these issues would be complete without providing concrete solutions to the problems he revealed.

Grubb earned numerous awards throughout his career, culminating with the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in 2012. He shared his expertise around the world, holding visiting scholar positions in Oxford and Cambridge, speaking at conferences in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and consulting in Paris and many countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Norton with his daughter Hilary and Max the dog. Photo: courtesy Rikki Grubb

Grubb also actively participated in more local efforts, conducting numerous workshops for community college instructors and administrators, working on reform agendas with the Berkeley Unified School District, and contributing to the California Master Plan Commission.

Grubb was equally enthusiastic about his personal interests, many of which first took shape during his youth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He was passionate about travel, hiking, and the performing arts. He delighted (and sometimes horrified) his family with culinary experiments. He made hummus from scratch and pesto from homegrown basil, and his Yorkshire pudding at Christmas and risotto whenever his two children demanded it remain unparalleled.

Grubb was a devoted father who believed strongly in shared parenting and the support of his wife’s 40-year career as a lawyer. He taught his children how to think critically, and how to appreciate fresh powder on the slopes. He cheered at his daughter’s diving competitions and helped her study for her medical boards. He never missed his son’s soccer games, and the two of them later enjoyed wild travels throughout China.

Norton holding Zoe, his first grandchild. Photo: courtesy Rikki Grubb

After getting to know four generations of Beijingers, Grubb officially became a father-in-law to one in 2011. He proudly announced the birth of his first grandchild in December 2014 with a long email to friends and colleagues, and he spent the three weeks before leaving for Taiwan posing for pictures with her in his arms. Grubb also had a passion for folk art, textiles from indigenous cultures, and modernist prints, and he filled the family home with objets d’art gathered during his travels and frequent visits to auction houses across the globe. His vast collection of Marimekko shirts was perhaps the most visible extension of his colorful personality.

W. Norton Grubb died as he lived: traveling the world with Rikki – his “sweetness” – by his side. In addition to his wife, Grubb is survived by his daughter Dr. Hilary Maia Grubb, and son Alex Grubb (Trisha Ma); granddaughter, Zoe; parents, Bishop Edward and Mrs. Anne MacBurney; and brother, James Grubb (Anne). His brother, Page Grubb, died in 2008.

A celebration of Grubb’s life will take place on Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 2 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave in Berkeley. Memorial gifts can be made to the Professor W. Norton and Erica B. Grubb Principal Leadership Institute Fellowship, to support teachers preparing to serve as leaders in K-12 schools.

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